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224          MY    COUNTRY   AND    MY    PEOPLE

analysis of the foreign and domestic political situation of the
moment and a more detailed account of the ways and means
by which they are going to "drive out" the invaders and
"stop9* the breakers of international peace. This literary
malpractice is sometimes carried to stupid extremes, as when
a commercial advertisement for silk stockings takes the form of
a long five-hundred-word essay, beginning with "Since the
Manchurian provinces have been lost. . . ."

That does not mean, however, that the Chinese people are
simple-minded. Their literature is full of generalities, but it is
not simple. Rather on the contrary, from this hedging about
the problems and these vague generalities of expression, there
has developed, strange to say, the utmost finesse of expression.
The Chinese, versed in this literary training, have learned to
read between the lines, and it is the foreigners3 inability to
read between the lines, or the fault of the bad translators in
missing the "meaning beyond the words" (as we say in
Chinese) that causes the foreign correspondents to curse both
China and themselves for their inability to make head or
tail of such cleverly-worded and apparently harmless public

For the Chinese have developed an art of mincing words—
largely due, as we have seen, to the monosyllabic character of
the literary language—and we believe in words. It is words by
which we live and words which determine the victory in a
political or legal struggle. Chinese civil wars are always
preceded by a battle of words in the form of exchange of
telegrams. The public assiduously read this exchange of
abusiveness or of polite recriminations or even brazen-faced
lies, and decide which has a better literary style, while they
appreciate fully that an ominous cloud is hanging over the
horizon. This is called in Chinese "first politeness, and then
weapons." The party about to revolt charges the central
government with "corruption" and "selling the country to its
enemy," while the central government more adroitly charges
the rebelling party to "co-operate for peace" and "for the
unity of the nation," "because we are living in a period of
national trouble," etc., etc., while both armies move nearer
and nearer the clashing line and dig deeper and deeper